View Full Version : Location, location, location

03-06-2010, 9:47pm
Some time ago, I started a thread - see http://www.ausphotography.net.au/forum/showthread.php?t=28826 - called Playing with maps about embedding Google maps into a photographic website. I won't resurect that thread because, for some reason unclear to me, I stupidly put it in the off-topic forum (it belongs here) and I have the off-topic forum blocked (because life is too short).

Time to revisit that theme. I'm still playing with maps, but it gets more complicated as time goes by. Visit my website - http://tannin.net.au - and surf some random images. At lower left (underneath the picture) there is some fine print that (among other things) provides a link to the place where the shot was taken. Follow that link to the maps. Surf around a few random images and see what you think.

? Is the placement of the three small maps appropriate?

? Are the sizes about right?

? Are the zoom levels about right? (Bear in mind that you don't get a lot of choice: the Google Maps API let's you double or halve the scale, you can't do anything in between.)

? Are the little cross-hair markers that indicate the place of interest appropriate? (Actually I have already decided that they need to be just a little more obvious, but only a little.)

(BTW, the you-would-expect-it-to-be-simple matter of placing a marker on the map is non-trivial. It is a horrendously obscure and complicated process unless you want to use the dreadfully intriusive and distracting Google default cartoon-book-style markers. THe reason you rarely see a Google map with any other sort of marker is that it's too bloody difficult to program. Well, the programming isn't that hard, but it is a seriously time-consuming task to wade through the spread-all-over-the-place documentation and figure out the two or three critical bits they forgot to tell you. Once you know how, it's just tedious and annoying. Anyway, it's done now. (And that was another weekend I won't see again.)

? Where should I take this next? There is lots of stuff I could do, but it needs to be thought through properly before I start, as in many cases it would be quite a lot of work. I'm happy to put the work in if the idea is good, but I don't want to spend days coding something up only to decide that it makes too much visual clutter.

? Should I do the link back to the image next? (Instead of having to use the browser back button, which is the current arrangement.) If so, with a thumbnail? If so, what does this do to the layout? Where does everything go?

? What about links to the other photographs in this same location? I already have this, with thumbnails to the first 5, in my management interface.

? Or should they be links to other locations nearby? With thumbnails? (Thumbnails of maps, by the way, are non-trivial coding-wise. But I could do them if I had to.)

Essentially, I want the visitor to be able to sink into an area (e.g. South-east NSW) and absorb a sense of place from it. Maps, pictures, birds, landscapes, text .... it's all part of it. But I'm thrashing ideas for presentation around just now because ... well, because it's time I re-assessed where I am heading with this thing. And, if we are going to be honest, also because it's a way of putting off doing the most urgent task, which is writing a lot more text.

Anyway, wander over to http://tannin.net.au and look at some map pages (there is one attached to almost every image and about 650-odd images on file, but once you have looked at five or six you will have the general idea). If anything happens to cross your mind when you do that, come back here and say so.


03-06-2010, 10:28pm
How interesting! I had a flick through a few and found it gives the photo another dimension. I can see your vision of getting a viewer into an area. It would be good if you could have a number of marks on the map linking straight to other photos maybe with popup thumbnails. (I've probably suggested something infinitely more difficult and time consuming to code!)

The link to get to it in the first place is not particularly obvious though. I think if you hadn't told me where to click for a map I would have easily missed it.

The sizing of the maps etc I found to be logical, however in some it was a satellite view and others a map view. Not sure if that was intentional but it was a little odd. I like satellite views because you can relate the terrain, but I also like the map so you can put names of surrounding places into perspective.

Where to from here? I don't know, but it sounds like a lot of work!

03-06-2010, 10:30pm

i wonder whether you could put a thumbnail of the australian map with a thumb-tack next to locater descriptor, may be detailed enough for most and allow navigation to the next level

Richard Hall
03-06-2010, 10:40pm
It would be good if you could have a number of marks on the map linking straight to other photos maybe with popup thumbnails. (I've probably suggested something infinitely more difficult and time consuming to code!)

The link to get to it in the first place is not particularly obvious though. I think if you hadn't told me where to click for a map I would have easily missed it.

Smugmug has something similar implemented called 'map this', if you want an idea how it looks I started doing a few on my own site recently HERE (http://richardhallphotography.com/Trips/Lamington-National-Park-QLD/12213076_exrLK#870885206_FrDPh). The 'map this' button takes you there... funnily enough.

I agree, the link to the maps isn't very obvious and went unnoticed until you pointed it out.

edit: I've been manually adding coordinates to the EXIF data of some of my images (I don't have the means to do it automatically), and found GeoSetter (http://www.geosetter.de/en) a pretty reasonable and FREE app to help me out with multiple files at a time.

03-06-2010, 10:42pm
Thanks guys. Kiwi, I don't quite follow your thought there. Ahh, hang on - I think you mean have the Aus map thumbnail on the main picture page, not the map page, yes?

There are some technical and copyright restriction issues to deal with as regards thumbnails of maps. I'm not sure if I can do that or not. But I could make my own Australian map (from readily available copyright-free sources) and use php and/or Javascript to position a marker. That would be tedious to code up and test, but perfectly doable, and very fast to load.

The key issue with this idea becomes aesthetic: I am paranoid about keeping the nice clean image page with minimal clutter and distraction. Every time I add a visual element, however small, I go through agonies of indecision. But it would be a useful element ..... There is a major visual redesign in progress now - almost finished in most regards - intended to adapt the page to crappy modern shallow-screen monitors. (Putting all the navigation and all the text to either side instead of underneath - better suited to these useless so-called "wide-screen" monitors the industry has inflicted on people now.) Perhaps I could work it into that. Food for thought anyway. Thanks, Kiwi/

03-06-2010, 10:46pm
yes, thats what I was suggesting. I think there needs to be a map icon of some kind rather than a hyperlink. I wonder if you should look at google maps. It seems pervasive.

03-06-2010, 10:48pm
Smugmug has something similar implemented called 'map this', if you want an idea how it looks I started doing a few on my own site recently HERE (http://richardhallphotography.com/Trips/Lamington-National-Park-QLD/12213076_exrLK#870885206_FrDPh). The 'map this' button takes you there... funnily enough.

Now that is awesome, I think a tutorial is in order to share how to set that up! I might just go and have a look on my Smugmug page and fiddle!

03-06-2010, 10:49pm
I wonder if you should look at google maps. It seems pervasive. Now you have lost me!

03-06-2010, 10:53pm
ok, google maps seems to be almost pervasive on many applications as the de facto consumer mapping interface (and is now being integrated into a number of business apps). So, you store the location, but then that is linked to the mapping interface provided by google maps. Its possible that licencing is a problem, Im not sure, A little like the smughug interface shown above but id be surprised if most people arent very familiar with it

03-06-2010, 10:57pm

03-06-2010, 11:07pm
A non-obvious link to the map pages is just fine for now - after I have finished the design and debugged and so on, there will be plenty of time to make it more obvious if that seems appropriate. I'll keep an open mind on that one.

Mic, it seems Rich and Smugmug have already done pretty much exactly what you suggest. I don't think the coding would be too difficult. (I'm coding my site up by hand, of course, starting from scratch and using php and (only where absolutely, positively necessary because I hate and despise it) Javascript. Mostly PHP, obviously.

I am already using Google maps and placing markers on them according to the geographic info in my database - a single marker only, in my case, and (after a ridiculous amount of trouble) a modest, unobtrusive one as compared with the ugly great default pin things. Adding an info bubble should be easy enough - hell, real estate agents can do it, how hard can it be? - and putting a thumb inside should also be doable. .... hmmm .... I'm obviously looking in the wrong places: a 5 or 10 minute search doesn't turn anything obvious up, but it is clearly possible - Smugmug are already doing it.

03-06-2010, 11:21pm
Kiwi, these are Google maps! That's why I was puzzled. :)

Version 1 (which I've had running for a bit more than a year now) used the Quick Map interface.

Version 2 (the one now live on tannin.net.au) uses a combination of the Javascript API http://code.google.com/apis/maps/documentation/javascript/ (big map) and the Static Maps API http://code.google.com/apis/maps/documentation/staticmaps/ (the three small maps). THe small maps are static because (a) they don't really need to be scrollable, (b) static maps are vastly faster to load than dynamic maps, and (c) if I ever want to I can easily make them clickble and do other tricks with them.

The Smugmug maps Rick linked too are also Google-based.

Rich - Albert's Lyrebird no less! You have been busy! That's a really neat interface. Until seeing that, I didn't know that you could have thumbs in info windows - hadn't really asked the question, I suppose.

Now, the next question: assuming I can code something along the lines that Mic suggests and Rich demonstrates at Smugmug (should be reasonably straightforward, and the bulk of the required data is already there in the database) .... (a) do I want to do that, and (b) where does it fit with the rest of the site design and the overall purpose? That I have to think about.

Also, I have to figure out a way to let the user get rid off all the clutter and just look at the maps. That involves some design issues and some hairy coding issues. (Bloody Javascript! If programmers go to hell, it's probably to work on a Javascript project.)

Where was I? Starting another post, I think. THis one is too confusing already.

03-06-2010, 11:33pm
Mic, you asked about the small maps and why they are different types. This question (and others like it) is exactly why I started this thread! I'm still tossing ideas around and trying stuff out. The current version has three small maps:

1: Whole of Australia. Always satellite view.

2: State or large, hopefully recognisable, part of a state. South-west Western Australia, for example, or Far North Queensland, or the whole of Tasmania. Can be switched (by me) on a per-location basis to show satellite, terrain or map view. Mostly I've been leaving it set to satellite.

3: more zoomed-in view than #2. Can be set on a per-location basis (again, by me using the edit map control panel which is naturally not available to the public) to use any of the four types of map, and of the available zoom levels, and (if desired) to be offset with respect to the place of interest. (Maps #1 and #2, like the big map, are always centered on the point of interest. With #3, if the POI happens to be somewhere awkward, such as at the very tip of a peninsula, I can move the centre of the map without moving the marker. In theory I could do this with the others too, but it adds complication ands doesn't seem to be needed at this stage.)

So, in short, I'm fiddling about with the map types and settings and wondering what the best way to do it is. On the whole I'm leaning towards setting it on a per-location basis and varying as seems to suit different places, but that's still very much up in the air.

Having 3 small maps, not 4 or 2, I have pretty much set in stone - as much for visual reasons as anything else.

03-06-2010, 11:36pm
duh, sorry Tony, I completely missed the google logo, i didnt scroll down far enough, so sorry, no wonder you were confused

03-06-2010, 11:37pm
Yes as I said I like the satellite and map views for different reasons and I agree it would depend on the location as to what fits best. ie no point having a map if there isn't a place name within cooeee!